Cases & Deals

R.J. Reynolds prevails in challenge to largest ''Engle progeny'' judgment

Client(s) R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

On April 9, 2012, in an important decision both for tobacco litigation and for personal injury litigation in Florida, generally, the First District Court of Appeals for Florida reversed a $79.2 million personal-injury award against Jones Day client R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as the product of passion and contrary to law. The verdict had been the highest personal injury judgment ever awarded against Reynolds. The appellate court set aside awards of compensatory and punitive damages and remanded the case to the trial court for remittitur or a new trial on damages.

The plaintiff in the case -- the daughter of a long-time smoker -- was 54 years old when her father died in his late 70s of lung cancer. Over R.J. Reynolds' objections, the trial focused largely on a group of hardships suffered by the plaintiff long before her father's death and not related to his smoking. The appeals court concluded that the focus on these hardships had wrongly ignited the passion of the jury and led to a runaway and improper verdict and that the trial court had abused its discretion in failing to remit the verdict or order a new trial.

Webb, Dianne, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 38-2009 CA 001285 (Fla. Cir. Ct., 8th Jud. Cir., Levy County) and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Webb, No. 10-6577 (Fla. 1st DCA, Apr. 9, 2012)